Football: Gunn filled with campaigning spirit: Phil Shaw on Norwich City's genial goalkeeper who faces the might of Bayern Munich tonight

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The Independent Online
FOR a Scottish international, wearing an England shirt in public is normally tantamount to treason. The fact that Bryan Gunn was kitted out in a kilt at the time might also have been expected to antagonise Norwich City, but this bizarre sartorial blend had the blessing of both club and country.

It happened at a Norwich theatre during a gala performance of 'An Evening With Gary Lineker'. The giant goalkeeper had put on the play to raise money for research into leukaemia, which claimed the life of his two-year-old daughter, Francesca, last October. Gunn did his Brian Rix bit in Lineker's old No 10 top and national costume, and the evening ended with the fund better off by pounds 30,000.

The Norwich manager, Mike Walker, who entered the spirit of the occasion by chasing John Fashanu into the audience in a bid to 're-sign' him, will be glad to see Gunn back in more familiar garb tonight. Norwich face the biggest match in their history, away to Bayern Munich in the first leg of a Uefa Cup tie, and with all of three European games behind him, the genial 29-year-old from Thurso is their most experienced campaigner.

Gunn's only European appearance prior to this season was for Aberdeen against Gothenburg in the Champions' Cup, but he also holds a Cup-Winners' Cup medal from when the Dons overcame Real Madrid 10 years ago. He was substitute to Jim Leighton that night, as well as on a further 40 such occasions. Add six Scotland caps, the most recent coming in Italy last week, and it is obvious why Walker sees him as such a key figure.

For Gunn, who arrived in Norfolk seven years ago this week, working life currently revolves around Olympic stadiums. After leaving from the Roman version with stitches in a head wound inflicted by Roberto Baggio, he now returns to the Munich model. 'Aberdeen drew 0-0 at Bayern in the Cup-Winners' Cup quarter-final,' he recalled. 'We then beat them 3-2 at Pittodrie, so I'm trusting that will be a happy omen for Norwich.'

Although he will not have to face Rummenigge, Breitner, Hoeness or Augenthaler this time, the present Bayern side is almost as formidable. 'We've got the hardest tie of the English clubs - and the most attractive,' Gunn said. 'I've watched German football on TV and I'm only too aware of the quality of Lothar Matthaus and Olaf Thon. They've also got the Colombian striker, Adolfo Valencio.

'The keeper, Raimond Aumann, was on the bench with me all those years ago. I'd previously played against him an a youth international at Ibrox, so we've been following each other around]' Aumann might find that his opposite number talks the jersey off his back. The one swapped with Estonia's keeper was auctioned in aid of leukaemia research, for which Gunn has now raised pounds 100,000.

Walker, himself a former keeper, was impressed by Bayern when he saw them win 4-0 at Cologne recently. Gunn, however, suspects the Germans may underrate Norwich. 'Some English teams still regard us as country bumpkins and I hope Bayern make the same mistake. Last season we were around the top of the League right until mid- March, and we're there again now. Yet no one has really commented on our consistency.

'We had a few dreadful defeats last year, like the 7-1 at Blackburn, but we always bounced back with a good result. This time we've played with a sweeper, three defenders and two wing-backs away from Carrow Road. The system is harder to break down, and it also allows the likes of Ruel Fox and Efan Ekoku to use their pace on the break.'

Norwich's unbeaten away record in the Premiership - which includes revenge at Blackburn, a 4-0 rout of Leeds, a 5-1 walloping of Everton and Saturday's victory at Chelsea - testifies to the difference. The way they disposed of Vitesse Arnhem 3-0, before doing what Gunn called 'a really professional job' with a 0-0 draw in the Netherlands, indicated that they already have the hang of Europe.

'Few Continental sides play crosses in high for big men, which is the way the game has gone in Britain, particularly at set-pieces. They try to work the ball in along the ground, or around the back. Their technique is excellent and they strike the ball better from long range, so as a keeper your concentration has to be sharp.'

After a chastening night against Baggio and Co, when he apologised to the Scotland team for conceding a sloppy goal in the opening minutes, Gunn is especially fired up for Bayern. But if the roof falls in, there will be no glib talk of 'tragedy'.

'Francesca's death has opened my eyes up to life and made me realise football isn't everything,' Gunn explained. 'At the same time, I've got a job to do. When it happened, I discussed with my wife, Susan, whether to have time away or get straight back. We decided I should keep playing - and with hindsight it was the right decision.'

Donations can be sent to Bryan Gunn's Appeal for the Relief of Childhood Leukaemia, c/o 93 Unthank Road, Norwich, Norfolk NR2 2BR.

(Photograph omitted)

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